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ECU pass game progressing

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East Carolina offensive coordinator Tony Petersen, left, gives direction to ECU's quarterbacks during a practice session last week.

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By NATHAN SUMMERS
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

After East Carolina football’s fourth workout of spring practice on Monday evening, second-year offensive coordinator Tony Petersen talked about the high value of all three of the team’s quarterbacks taking snaps in the 11-on-11 game sequences.

He got to see plenty of rising junior Gardner Minshew, the man already inked in as the team’s 2017 starter, but also kept an eye on redshirt freshman Reid Herring and true frosh Kingsley Ifedi. Despite what Petersen and ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery describe as a gulf of difference between the starter and the two vying backups, the coaches are already charting progress.

“Gardner does all the stuff on and off the field that you want a quarterback to do,” Petersen said of Minshew, a former Mississippi junior college find who took over as starter in place of injured Philip Nelson last season and passed for 1,347 yards and eight touchdowns. “He’s still making some mistakes and learning in the offense, but he’s doing a great job in the length of time that he’s been here.”

Montgomery notices and appreciates attention to detail perhaps more than anything else, and the second-year coach said he has been impressed with Minshew’s overall command when taking snaps.

“He understands the offense and he’s way ahead of anybody we had here last year at this time just because of a whole year in the system,” Montgomery said of Minshew. “He has a really good relationship with his teammates and an understanding of getting us in and out of plays. We’re under center here a little bit and sometimes ... you need the quarterback to get you out of some plays that may not be the best in the world, and he’s able to do that right now.”

Petersen said he is also happy with Herring, who he said is closer to being ready to play than he would have expected. As for Ifedi, who graduated high school early to join the Pirates, the coordinator understandably said he is happy with any immediate progress the former dual-threat star from Charlotte Vance can show.

Beefing up

For Herring, the adjustment continues and part of the transition to a college quarterback for him has been physical.

Since his arrival, Herring has packed on 14 pounds in attempt to better fit the part of a passer at the top college level. It hasn’t been easy, but Herring said his progress is steady and he admits he still must gain more mass.

“It definitely feels good to weigh more, but sometimes you can definitely tell a difference when you’re running or conditioning comes along and you’re like, ‘Dang, I’m a little bit heavier than I used to be,’ but it’s been good for me,” said the 6-foot-3, 175-pound Herring, a former star at Raleigh’s Millbrook High School.

From a scheme standpoint, Herring said the most difficult detail is learning and committing to memory all of the different protections — the way the team around the QB protects him on pass plays — used in the ECU playbook.

“In high school we had just one or two calls,” he said. “In college, you can have so many different checks on one play, so I’ve been getting in the film room and coach Petersen has been helping me with that. It definitely feels good when you get out there and start to understand it more and you start to make more plays because of that. I’m not all the way there yet but I’m definitely looking forward to getting there.”

Breathless finish

The Pirates ran their usual sprints after practice on Monday, and then they ran some more, and then some more for more than a half hour.

They did so in full pads and on arguably the warmest day of spring drills to date.

“It was one of those spring ball days that you look at as a player and you don’t like to see coming, but as a coach you get to check the oil a little bit of the team and that’s what we did today,” said Montgomery, who when asked whether the extended, grueling post-practice sprints were part of the plan all along, responded, “Maybe.”

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.

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